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Kentucky Derby: The way to Justify ending a 136-year hoodoo

J A McGrath

It was the wettest G1 Kentucky Derby in memory as torrential rain lashed Churchill Downs non-stop for over five hours before, during and after the 144th running of America’s most famous horse race.

The track was sloppy and unbearable for many, yet the consensus among experts was that Justify (Scat Daddy), who sat up on the speed throughout before winning by two and a half lengths, is something special.

In fact, he can be considered a colt out of the ordinary if just for becoming the first since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having run as a two-year-old.

A check of his record shows that he made his racecourse debut on 18 February - only two and a half months before retaining an unbeaten record (three from three) in the big one.

One of the ‘rules’ to finding the Derby winner had been being seasoned beforehand with a juvenile campaign. 

His trainer Bob Baffert, winning the race for the fifth time, placed Justify in the same bracket as American Pharoah and Arrogate, saying: “All three are cut from different cloth.”

Good Magic (Curlin) and Audible (Into Mischief) took second and third respectively.

Godolphin’s Enticed finished 14th after settling worse than midfield and then losing his position five furlongs from home. He was eased in the final furlong. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said: “It’s back to the drawing board.”